Overland travel in Antarctica isn’t simple. What happens when scientists need to go to a remote region rarely visited, or take a path unknown?

After 5 years of preparation, Australia’s most significant traverse in 20 years is travelling from Casey research station towards Little Dome C, 1,200 kilometres away on the Antarctic plateau.

This season’s primary task is to test the traverse and prove a path towards Little Dome C.

So what is a traverse and why is it needed?

Travel in Antarctica is more complicated than getting in your car or booking a plane ticket.

Just like there are no cars, there are no highways, rest stops or petrol stations. Travelling these vast distances requires a heavy-duty convoy carrying everything you need to survive – food, equipment, fuel, power generators, sleeping and living spaces – and a team of people to keep safe, warm and fed.

Science in Antarctica is a logistically challenging business, with its long distances, freezing temperatures, shifting ice and extreme winds.

The modern tractor traverse will allow the Australian Antarctic Program to move inland in all weather conditions and reach areas deep in the Antarctic interior.

Why now?

One of the scientific ‘holy grails’ in Antarctica is the search for glacial ice that formed more than a million years ago. A million year ice core will provide new information to test climate models and answer questions about a shift in the timing of ice ages. Scientists want to understand what caused this shift, to better understand present-day climate change.

Australia is taking a leading role in this international quest for the ‘oldest ice’. The traverse will set up a mobile inland station at the chosen drilling site and then spend 4–5 summers drilling.

Read more about the search for the million year ice core.

A plan for the future

A modern, deep-field traverse capability will offer scientists the opportunity to access the entire Australian Antarctic Territory.

Its development and the search for the million year ice core are part of the Australian Antarctic Strategy.